View photos of the third mock draft by Buccaneers.com contributors Carmen Vitali and Scott Smith. Photos by AP Images.
Last year, three of the top 10 picks in the NFL Draft changed hands after the clock started running, and a fourth had been moved by a 2016 trade between the Rams and Titans. That deal was one of two that took place in the weeks leading up to the 2016 draft, as the Rams and Eagles hunted down the top two spots in rapid succession.
All of those deals had something to do with a quarterback. The Bears and 49ers swapped the second and third picks in 2017 so that Chicago could take Mitchell Trubisky, while the Chiefs made a big move from #27 to #10 to get Patrick Mahomes. In 2016, the Rams and Eagles positioned themselves to start the draft with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively.
In 2015, in contrast, not one of the top 14 picks in the draft changed hands, either before or after the actual selections started. This wasn't due to a lack of quarterback influence in that year's draft; quite the opposite, as the Buccaneers took Jameis Winston first and the Titans followed with Marcus Mariota. The difference in 2017 was that the teams most motivated to seek a new franchise quarterback were already picking at the very top of the draft.
The 2018 draft looks like it will combine a little bit of both scenarios. The Browns are picking first and fourth and are widely expected to use one of those picks – probably the first one – on a passer. The Jets moved up from #6 to #3, probably to target a quarterback as well. The Giants at #2 and the Broncos at #5 might also be in the QB market. At the same time, there are teams just a bit farther down the board could have a very strong desire to get in on this year's quarterback buffet, which seems to have a few more high-end dishes than usual. That includes the Bills, who have the 12th and 22nd picks to work with, and the Cardinals, who are sitting at #15.
The Buccaneers are smack dab in the middle of this QB smorgasbord, picking at #7. Though they are almost certainly not one of the teams in the market for a passer, what happens with the Josh Allens and Baker Mayfields of the world is going to have a lot to do with who is available to them, and if their pick becomes a hot trade commodity.
So where are the quarterbacks going to be drafted? In our latest mock draft effort, Carmen Vitali and I have them going very early. Scroll down to find out more, and what it might mean for the Buccaneers. This is also as good of a place as any to insert our usual words of caution: Though you are reading this on Buccaneers.com, none of this is meant to reflect the strategy or thinking of Jason Licht, Dirk Koetter or any others involved in the Buccaneers' actual draft decision-making. These come straight from my brain and Carmen's brain, which have undoubtedly been heavily influenced by all the other mock drafts out there.
One more thing before I go on the clock for Cleveland: We allowed trades in our Version 2.0 and actually made two of them. In this version, we duplicated one of those two, between Buffalo and Denver, but erased the other one, between the Buccaneers and Cardinals. The details of the remaining Bills-Broncos blockbuster (say that three times fast) are reprinted below. We also had to make a last-minute adjustment in Version 3.0 after the Tuesday trade of Brandin Cooks to the Rams.
Buffalo trades with Denver, moving up from #12 to #5.Having signed Case Keenum, Denver decides to push its franchise-QB search down a year or two and pick up extra draft assets for another run at the title. There's a 500 point difference between the picks on the draft value chart, so Buffalo gives up #53 in the second round and #65 in the first round. Those two picks add up to a value of 535 points, so Denver sends back a fifth-rounder, #142, which is worth 35 points.
Oh, sorry, one more thing: We changed the format just a bit. In Version 2.0, we noted at each pick which player had been selected at that spot in the first version. Listing the picks of all three versions was making things a bit cluttered, so we put them all in a table below. Scroll to the bottom if you want to see how our draft has evolved (and how many time we've changed our minds!).
That's the preamble. Now on to the picks.
1. Cleveland Browns: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming (Scott Smith)
Even when I gave the Browns Saquon Barkley in our Version 1.0, I had a strong feeling that this pick would evolve over time. The Browns subsequent signing of Carlos Hyde to a fairly big contract sealed it for me and I joined the masses in believing Cleveland would finally go for its new franchise quarterback (fingers crossed!) with the top pick. I'm even more convinced of that two weeks closer to the draft. On the other hand, I'm now probably less convinced that Allen is the guy, as they could go for the more polished Sam Darnold. For now I'm sticking with Allen and the idea of smoothing out his game for a year or so while Tyrod Taylor holds the reins.
2. New York Giants: QB Sam Darnold, USC (Carmen Vitali)
Ok, I'm a flip-flopper. Darnold was my 1.0 pick and I switched to Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson in 2.0 to shake things up (and because New York still needs O-line help even with the free agency addition of Nate Solder from New England). But I've settled back on Darnold. Why, you ask? Truthfully, there is a litany of reasons New York takes a QB even if they think Eli Manning still has gas in the tank. One – the asking price for a free agent quarterback is only going up if you go that route once Eli retires. Getting a guy in this QB-heavy draft locks him into his rookie contract for the first few years as he develops and theoretically becomes the starter. The second reason has less to do with the Giants and more to do with the other team in the Big Apple. The Jets traded up to the third pick, presumably to get a quarterback, and my thinking is they have a suspicion quarterbacks are going #1 and #2. Why else do you make such a push for that third spot when you could conceivably still nab a decent quarterback or one of the big three non-QBs like Nelson, Chubb or Barkley at their original pick #6?
- New York Jets: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (SS)*
And there you have it: Quarterbacks tend to rise through the mocks as the real thing draws near, and it only took us three versions to get to a spot where they are going 1-2-3. You could righteously point out that no draft has started with three straight passers in almost two decades (1999), but as Carmen points out, the Jets almost certainly made this deal to get a quarterback. After they made that deal with Indy, I gave them Darnold in Version 2.0, but I'm switching here because…well, Darnold's off the board. So there's that. Even so, I would be tempted to give them Mayfield here because if they moved up to #3 with a *specific passer in their sights, it would be more reasonable for them to believe that Mayfield would be available than Darnold.
4. Cleveland Browns: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State (CV)
Scott almost had me switching this pick to DE Bradley Chubb. I was so close to pulling the trigger but I couldn't do it. I know the Browns signed Carlos Hyde. I know Chubb is drawing comparisons to the number-one overall pick last year in Myles Garrett and a defense that has both those guys would be flat out terrifying, but… I just don't see how you can pass up an offensive weapon like Barkley to develop with your quarterback of the future you just nabbed first overall. Final answer: I'm doubling down and sticking with Barkley.5. (PROJECTED TRADE) Buffalo Bills (from Denver): QB Josh Rosen, UCLA (SS)
As noted above, we proposed this trade in Version 2.0 and decided to keep it in this one. If anything, Buffalo should be even more desperate to deal after seeing three quarterbacks go in the top four picks instead of two. As it turns out, they get to stick with Rosen because we have Mayfield leap-frogging him in the QB pecking order. Of course, Denver could just stay put and take a quarterback itself, or they could potentially get an even bigger deal from a different team wanting to move up, like the Cardinals. It makes you wonder if a trade will happen well before the draft, because multiple teams are worried about somebody else pulling the trigger first. Seems like the fifth spot is an awfully nice place to be right now!
6. Indianapolis Colts: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State (CV)
This is still a no-brainer. The Colts need edge-rush help and Chubb is still on the board in this scenario. To be fair, I think if the Browns do end up taking Chubb at No. 4, the Colts will proceed to take Barkley. Either way, they're both gone before Tampa Bay gets its shot at seven. However, because of the front-loaded quarterback grab, the Bucs are poised for a pretty great pick with (drumroll please)…
View photos of Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson in college. Photos by AP Images.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (SS)*
Thank you for the dramatic introduction. I hope this pick is exciting enough to deserve it. I know *I will be thrilled if this comes to pass. I liked it off that I called of the Version 2.0 trade down with the Cardinals. As Head Coach Dirk Koetter conceded last week at the league's Annual Meeting, it is "logical" to believe that the secondary would be a targeted area for the Bucs in the draft after all the additions to the D-Line, so I understand why so many mock drafts are pairing the Buccaneers with a defensive back. That may indeed be the direction they go, but in this particular mock draft Nelson is still available and he just seems too good to pass up. An interior-line trio of Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen and Quenton Nelson has the chance to be dominant.
8. Chicago Bears: DT Vita Vea, Washington (CV)
I am absolutely thrilled about that Nelson pick for the Bucs as well. Call it a big-man bias, but I love it when linemen on either side of the trenches get the spotlight. Which is another reason why I'm sticking with D-T-double-V for Chicago. He's as athletic as they come for an interior lineman and he has SIZE. It's been a long time since the "Monsters of the Midway" really meant something and I think Vea has the potential to become a mon-star for the Bears' defensive line (not of the Space Jam variety).
9. San Francisco 49ers: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (SS)
This is the first pick in our draft that has stayed the same through all three versions, and it's not because I'm more decisive than Carmen. I just can't find a reason to change it. Probably the biggest impediment to this actually happening is Fitzpatrick coming off the board earlier, perhaps to Tampa Bay at #7. I'd love to find a receiver for Jimmy GQ or an edge rusher for Kyle Shanahan's defense, but I'm not seeing the value at those spots at pick #9. I like this pick a lot more if Fitzpatrick sticks at cornerback.
10. Oakland Raiders: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia (CV)
To be fair, you are definitely more decisive than I am. Wait, does my saying that make me decisive? Plus, I'm also sticking to my original 1.0 pick of Roquan Smith for the Raiders… Look at me, doing that decisive thing there. Truthfully, Smith's ability to go sideline-to-sideline is more the reason for consistency here. The guy is a great coverage linebacker who has the speed and range to defend multiple levels. Plus, I'm still relishing in grabbing this guy before Scott Smith could for the Dolphins in 1.0.
11. Miami Dolphins: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan (SS)
My decisiveness lasted all of one pick, because I'm switching up on the Dolphins here after giving them LB Tremaine Edmunds in the last two versions. The reason is simple and obvious: Ndamukong Suh now plays on the West Coast. The Dolphins may have a need at linebacker but they have a gaping hole at defensive tackle and that's a deep position in this year's draft…deep enough that, after seeing my targeted player, Vita Vea, go to the Bears I still felt fine pivoting to Hurst here at #11. His stock should be on the rise after several different cardiologists cleared him to play.
12. (PROJECTED TRADE) Denver Broncos (from Buffalo): DE Harold Landry, Boston College (CV)
Experts can't get enough of this guy and although he comes from a small school – it's a small school with a tougher schedule than the other small-school defensive end (UTSA's Marcus Davenport) faced, as I pointed out in 2.0. Landry also drastically improved his stock by showing up and showing out at this year's Combine, testing on par with DE Bradley Chubb and even beating him out in things like the 3-Cone Drill and 20-Yard Shuffle. I think Denver is more than happy to get this guy if they can snag him at 12.
13. Washington Redskins: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (SS)
I gave them Denzel Ward in the last two versions and still feel like they could use help at cornerback, but with Edmunds falling past the Dolphins this time I think the Redskins pounce. They arguably need linebackers even more, with Trent Murphy leaving and Junior Galette not expected back. Washington did add former Bear Pernell McPhee to that group, and he's a good pass-rusher, but he's had difficulty staying healthy.
- Green Bay Packers: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (CV)**
And I'll take Ward in Green Bay, thank you. It's no secret the Packers needs cornerback help (like always, it seems) and Green Bay should be so lucky to nab the best corner in the Draft at number 14.
15. Arizona Cardinals: T Connor Williams, Texas (SS)
Are they moping in Tempe after the Buccaneers (me, that is) decided to call off the trade we proposed in Version 2.0? Maybe they were mad for a bit for missing out on Mayfield, but they have to feel pretty good about taking the first offensive tackle off the board. That is an area of great need, too, so I think they pass on Lamar Jackson and give some protective services to the recently-acquired duo of Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon.
16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama (CV)
Well now that the number-one tackle prospect is off the board, I think the Ravens take the opportunity to take the now available Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Yes, it's a shallow receiver class, but Baltimore is in desperate need of someone for Flacco to throw to. So, while they could still definitely use a tackle, they instead prioritize the number-one guy at another position of need instead over taking the next-best on the O-line.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama (SS)
This is getting frustrating. I am desperately trying to send a defensive tackle to L.A. but I'm being forced to adjust from mock to mock. First I had the Chargers taking Vea, who seems to be considered the best at that position this year. When Vea climbed in Version 2.0, I pivoted to Hurst, but now he's off the board, too. So the Version 3.0 solution is Alabama's Da'Ron Payne…which is actually quite nice, thank you! He can stop the run, which is exactly what the Chargers need.
18. Seattle Seahawks: S Derwin James, Florida State (CV)
To be fair, you did yourself in on Hurst. I thought James was a steal in 1.0. To see that he falls this far in 3.0 is completely unrealistic, but Seattle can dream. Their secondary needs to be rebuilt and they'd be ecstatic with an alpha dog like James as the cornerstone of Boom 2.0.
19. Dallas Cowboys: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU (SS)
Ridley is getting closer and closer to the Cowboys! Maybe by Version 4.0 we'll have knocked him all the way down here. Until then, I'll stick with Sutton, though I'm also tempted to dip into that great DT depth for the Cowboys.
- Detroit Lions: DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA (CV)**
Although Landry is gone, I think Detroit still sees value in taking Davenport (as they should). I know I've been pushing Landry at this point but that doesn't mean Davenport isn't a viable edge guy. More than viable, his size and explosiveness make him a great prospect. So much so that I think it's unlikely he falls this far, but if he does, the Lions' defense will get a major upgrade.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (SS)
I gave the Bengals Kolton Miller in our last go-round, but since then the Bengals have brought in Notre Dame's McGlinchey for an official-30 visit. With Cordy Glenn ready to step in on the left side, McGlinchey might make more sense with his experience early in his college career at right tackle, where some scouts believe he's a better fit.
22. Buffalo Bills: T Kolton Miller, UCLA (CV)
Because of the departure of the aforementioned Cordy Glenn, the Bills have a hole to fill on the left side. Enter Kolton Miller. I know there are warnings against just filling gaps, but it seemed to work out for Rocky, so let's see what the athletic west coast tackle can do in Buffalo. He seems to be the natural fit with his experience protecting Josh Rosen's blind side at UCLA.
23. New England Patriots: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa (SS)
I've seen a theory floated that the Patriots' surprise trade of Brandin Cooks was made in order to get enough draft ammunition to subsequently trade for the Giants' Odell Beckham. It's not my theory, I don't know how I feel about this theory, but it sounds at least somewhat plausible. As such, we may not be picking for New England in this spot two weeks from now. I have to now, however, and it's a pretty easy job. I gave them Jackson in the first two versions but felt like it was a bit of a steal at #31. I feel better about it here.
24. Carolina Panthers: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina (CV)
Quarterback Cam Newton likes his big targets – including tight ends. With the departure of backup tight end Ed Dickson, Carolina will need depth behind an aging Greg Olsen. Hurst is widely considered to be the best tight end prospect in the draft because of his combo ability of pass-catching and blocking so I think he continues to call the Carolinas home with the Panthers picking him up in the first round.
25. Tennessee Titans: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M (SS)
I didn't change this pick from our last version, but I continue to struggle with it. I believe the Titans need another receiver but I truly wonder if Jon Robinson would pick one in the first round for a second straight year. He might if the Jarvis Landry comps are on point. If Corey Davis can blossom as a sophomore and Kirk can give them a high-volume pass-catcher out of the slot, Marcus Mariota could take a step forward, and what's more important to the Titans' fortunes than that?
26. Atlanta Falcons: DT Taven Bryan, Florida (CV)
Atlanta adds Bryan for depth after Dontari Poe left in free agency yadda yadda yadda - see 2.0 for full rationale. I don't feel like talking about how the Falcons hardly have any needs again.
- New Orleans Saints: TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State (SS)**
So, Gesicki killed it at the Combine, including a blistering 40-yard dash, he was a New Jersey high school slam dunk contest champ, he played volleyball (!) as a prep so you know he can jump and he almost never drops a pass. What's not to like? Well, he might not be the best blocking tight end in the world, but look where he's going in this mock draft. Do you think Drew Brees ever cared if Jimmy Graham could block? Graham probably spent more time in the slot than lined up over a tackle during his time as Brees' favorite target. Gesicki: Jimmy Graham 2.0? Man, I hope not.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State (CV)
This is my second pick that has stayed consistent across all three of our mocks so far. Not only is Vander Esch a great tackler, but he gets his hands up to break up passes as well – much like the injured Ryan Shazier who the Steelers unfortunately need to replace for the time being. This may be the pick I feel most confident about in this mock draft.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR James Washington, Oklahoma State (SS)
So you're more confident in the Steelers picking Vander Esch than the Colts picking Bradley Chubb or the Browns picking Saquon Barkley? No offense, but being this confident in the 28th pick in a mock draft is akin to really feeling like you nailed it with your Powerball number (23 all the way!). As for the Jags, they try to get an Allen Robinson replacement here. Jacksonville has a power runner in Leonard Fournette and a possession tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but Blake Bortles completed only 13 of his 55 pass attempts that traveled more than 21 yards in the air last year. Was that a deficiency in his game or the lack of a deep weapon. We'll find out because making plays downfield is what Washington does.
30. Minnesota Vikings: G Will Hernandez, UTEP (CV)
Honestly, yeah, I am more confident in Vander Esch at 28. Crazy stuff happens at the top. Ask 2017 Carmen and her expletive-filled rant after the Bears traded up from the third pick to the second to take a kid that started a total of 13 games his entire college career at North Carolina. Seems like they could have had the right idea though, for the record. Moving on to a different NFC North team – this pick has stayed consistent for me as well because the Vikings need as much protection for a fully guaranteed Kirk Cousins as they can get.
31. New England Patriots: DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State (SS)
In the last game the Patriots played, which a few people I know watched, the opposing quarterback dropped back 43 times, wasn't sacked, and threw for 373 yards. New England needs more of a pass-rush, and while it did sign Adrian Clayborn, that's probably not enough to fully address the issue. It's not easy to find a top-notch edge rusher past the first half of the first round, but Hubbard is at the very least a high-effort, consistent player.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Derrius Guice, LSU (CV)
Still sippin' on Guice over ice (better, Scott?) to complement Ajayi in Philadelphia. Sophomore slump says who?
Buccaneers.com Mock Draft Results:
|**Team**||**Version 1.0**||**Version 2.0**||**Version 3.0**|
|1||CLE||S. Barkley, RB||J. Allen, QB||J. Allen, QB|
|2||NYG||S. Darnold, QB||Q. Nelson, G||S. Darnold, QB|
|3||NYJ||(IND) B. Chubb, DE||S. Darnold, QB||B. Mayfield, QB|
|4||CLE||S. Rosen, QB||S. Barkley, RB||S. Barkley, RB|
|5||DEN||J. Allen, QB||(BUF) S. Rosen, QB||(BUF) S. Rosen, QB|
|6||IND||(NYJ) B. Mayfield, QB||B. Chubb, DE||B. Chubb, DE|
|7||TB||Q. Nelson, G||(AZ) B. Mayfield, QB||Q. Nelson, G|
|8||CHI||C. Ridley, WR||V. Vea, DT||V. Vea, DT|
|9||SF||M. Fitzpatrick, DB||M. Fitzpatrick, DB||M. Fitzpatrick, DB|
|10||OAK||R. Smith, LB||R. Smith, LB||R. Smith, LB|
|11||MIA||T. Edmunds, LB||T. Edmunds, LB||M. Hurst, DT|
|12||BUF||K. Miller, T||(DEN) H. Landry, DE||(DEN) H. Landry, DE|
|13||WAS||D. Ward, CB||D. Ward, CB||T. Edmunds, LB|
|14||GB||M. Davenport, DE||C. Ridley, WR||D. Ward, CB|
|15||AZ||C. Williams, T||(TB) M. Davenport, DE||C. Williams, T|
|16||BAL||M. McGlinchey, T||C. Williams, T||C. Ridley, WR|
|17||LAC||V. Vea, DT||M. Hurst, DT||D. Payne, DT|
|18||SEA||D. James, S||D. James, S||D. James, S|
|19||DAL||C. Sutton, WR||C. Sutton, WR||C. Sutton, WR|
|20||DET||H. Landry, DE||D. Payne, DT||M. Davenport, DE|
|21||CIN||(BUF) M. Hurst, DT||K. Miller, T||M. McGlinchey, T|
|22||BUF||L. Jackson, QB||M. McGlinchey, T||K. Miller, T|
|23||NE||(LAR) B. Price, C||(LAR) B. Price, C||J. Jackson, CB|
|24||CAR||J. Washington, WR||J. Washington, WR||H. Hurst, TE|
|25||TEN||R. Jones, RB||C. Kirk, WR||C. Kirk, WR|
|26||ATL||D. Payne, DT||T. Bryan, DT||T. Bryan, DT|
|27||NO||C. Kirk, WR||H. Hurst, TE||M. Gesicki, TE|
|28||PIT||L. Vander Esch, LB||L. Vander Esch, LB||L. Vander Esch, LB|
|29||JAX||H. Hurst, TE||E. St. Brown, WR||J. Washington, WR|
|30||MIN||W. Hernandez, G||W. Hernandez, G||W. Hernandez, G|
|31||NE||J. Jackson, CB||J. Jackson, CB||S. Hubbard, DE|
|32||PHI||D. Guice, RB||D. Guice, RB||D. Guice, RB|